Business

How a Spreadsheet of Black Artists on Bandcamp Grew Into an Online Database

Niks Delanancy, Kay Ferdinand
Delanancy: Sagar Gautam. Ferdinand: Thomas Murray.

(L-R) Co-Founders of Black Bandcamp, Niks Delanancy and Kay Ferdinand.

Last June, amid the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement and an ongoing conversation about diversifying the music industry, DJs Niks Delanancy and Kay Ferdinand created Black Bandcamp -- a public Google spreadsheet of Black artists with links to their pages on the online music marketplace. The London-based duo hoped the resource would bring recognition -- and revenue -- to Black artists, especially in the electronic scene, which is dominated by white acts who benefit from the work of the genre’s Black pioneers.

"The whole music industry has relied on the erasure and commodification of Black culture," says Delanancy. "It has become so normalized that unless it’s called out ... then there’s no change."

What started as a simple online spreadsheet rapidly grew into a community-run platform, and on May 5, Black Bandcamp relaunched as the Black Artist Database (B.A.D.). It now has over 3,500 user-submitted profiles representing Black creators from across international markets, genres and industries, from visual artists to publishers and labels, directing visitors to Bandcamp pages or personal websites. The B.A.D. website also publishes artist interviews and DJ mixes, as well as mixed-media features through its new editorial division, Voices. "With the conversation on race in wider society being so prevalent," says Ferdinand, "it seems the industry is more inclined to listen."

That exposure has already benefited acts like Nairobi, Kenya-based ambient musician KMRU, who has scored new fans and opportunities since listing himself on B.A.D. last June. "I got so many requests for compilations, remixes and commissions from festivals," he says, noting he has also used B.A.D. to connect with fellow African artists.

B.A.D.’s founders also aim to influence the music industry workforce, where just one in five senior-level roles are filled by people of color, according to UK Music’s 2020 Diversity Report. Through a new initiative called [pause], B.A.D. will help music businesses develop plans to diversify their workforces in exchange for a donation to help B.A.D. cover expenses, which include paying administrators and maintaining the website.

Next, Delanancy and Ferdinand hope to launch in-person B.A.D. events like workshops and panels, and they have already been invited to curate festival stages. They also wish to recruit more profiles from lesser-represented regions like Australasia, Africa and South America.

"There are millions of Black artists on this planet," says Delanancy. "We’re still in the premature stages."

This article originally appeared in the June 5, 2021 issue of Billboard.